Young Vic sails into new season and home with 'HMS Pinafore'

Gilbert and Sullivan's classic comic opera, "H.M.S. Pinafore," opens with the ship anchored in a British harbor and its sailors hard at work, scrubbing the decks for an expected, high-ranking visitor.

The Young Victorian Theatre Company, which is staging "Pinafore" July 13-21, has sailed into a new harbor, too, moving from its longtime home, the Centennial Hall theater at Bryn Mawr School, to the Sinex Theater at Roland Park Country School.


And like the crew of the Pinafore, Young Vic, as the company is known, is busy adapting to its new home for its own close-up when important real-life visitors, theatergoers, arrive for the company's 43rd season next week.

"It's a matter of getting familiar with the innards of the place," said Young Vic publicist Mike Lurie.


Last year, Young Vic, which specializes in Gilbert and Sullivan operas, had to leave Bryn Mawr, its home since 1989, because the school was expanding its summer theater workshop. The theater troupe went out with a bang, staging "The Mikado," one of Gilbert and Sullivan's best-known operas.

Now, Young Vic is christening its new home with "Pinafore," another classic.

"The energy has been great," said General Manager Brian Goodman, who considers the theater a major upgrade over Bryn Mawr's in size, acoustics and amenities such as elevators and air conditioning. "It has given the whole company a shot in the arm."

'They're excited about sound quality and newness," Lurie said.

The 425-seat Sinex Theater is deeper, too, with wider wings and an orchestra pit. A row of seats was removed, so that a "pit wall" could be built between the pit and the orchestra, Goodman said.

"After 43 years, it's really nice to have an orchestra pit," he said, adding, "This building has acoustics like an opera house."

The orchestra pit helps balance the sound — and for audiences, "the focus is on the stage, not on the orchestra," said Young Vic conductor Phillip Collister, a music professor at Towson University.

Sinex has its own dressing rooms, whereas past casts used a classroom at Bryn Mawr.


This year's cast has taken notice.

"Good acoustics," said Jenni Bank, 28, a Young Vic veteran with a big voice, who plays the role of Little Buttercup, a dockside vendor.

"It looks like a real theater," said Stage Manager James Harp.

The change in venue has not hurt Young Vic's business; in fact, "Ticket sales appear to be up," Goodman said.

Student in the chorus

Roland Park Country School is excited, too.


"Their set is in and it is spectacular," said Nancy Mugele, a school spokeswoman.

She said the school is providing security for the shows and that its External Programs office "has been instrumental in seeing to all of the details."

Mugele said Young Vic hired Janine Vreatt, the school's technical theater director, to run the lights, sound and all technical aspects of the show. And Mugele said the theater is used to having large sets.

The school also has a student representative in the cast — rising junior and "Pinafore" chorus member Jess Hwang, of Pikesville by way of her native South Korea.

Hwang, 17, said she first heard about the theater company when Harp spoke at the school and announced auditions.

"I got interested and I auditioned," she said, excited that she gets to perform on the same stage where she does much of her theater work in school.


"This is my home town," she said.

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Lurie said moving to its new venue will make it easier for Young Vic to attract younger people to Gilbert and Sullivan operas.

"We're trying to spread it to a next generation," Lurie said. "Any time there's a transition like this, you look at it as an opportunity."

Plenty of Baltimore jokes

Moving to a new home doesn't mean traditions will be lost. "Pinafore" features a familiar mix of semi-professional and amateur singers, from as far away as New York, where Bank lives, and as close as Gabrielle DeMers, 28, of Hampden, who plays Josephine, and Peter Tomaszewski, 33, of Charles Village, who plays Captain Corcoran.

"It's a wonderful space, a real treat," said Tomaszewski, last year's Grand Poo-Bah in "The Mikado." "This is a nice place to grow into."


Audiences can also expect a few Baltimore-centric jokes slipped into the script. During a rehearsal Sunday, Bank stole one scene in which she declared herself "a Buttercup, Hon," and tried to sell the sailors Berger cookies.

'Oh, yeah," Goodman said, when asked about the jokes. "We'll have plenty of those."